Why No One Should Ever "Retire"

One of the most commonly cited "secrets" of centenarians, persons who live to or beyond age 100, is that they never retire. Stay curious about life, do work you love, and continue to do activities and participate in the community. This idea got us thinking about the word itself - retire. Since we are big fans of etymology, the study of the origin of words, we thought we'd break down the meaning of retire – and it isn't good news.

The prefix re- means to do again and again or to go backwards. Tire means to exhaust; boredom; fatigue; make weary; decrease physical strength. Put the two together and it's as if the action of retiring means you are going to be bored and exhausted over and over again. There goes the dream of playing golf everyday.

Recent studies show that as a man's age at retirement decreases, his risk of premature death (before age 67) increases significantly. This appears to be true for males but not females. Researchers speculate possible causes being increased risk of heart attack, increased alcohol consumption leading to disease and vehicle injuries. Also worries about finances appear to play into the early mortality. Women are less susceptible to these causes of death possibly because they may be more health-conscious and adopt healthier habits than men; they may be more active after permanently exiting the workforce due to their greater participation in household activities, and they may be more apt to participate in stress reduction activities.

But ask the centenarians and they might say they maintain an active social life; they volunteer; they get daily exercise; they have a sense of humor; they don't eat a lot of sugar; and they have a passion and purpose for living. It's time to find yours. No matter what your age now, discover what makes you happy and most fulfilled. Find ways to incorporate that exercise or behavior in your life as often as possible. It helps if that passion and purpose serves something and someone other than just you. Working for the greater good of others keeps us busy and it keeps us healthy at the same time. It helps us sleep better at night.

The opposite action of retiring is to be proactive. Keep on working, giving, living, and having purpose. Don't go backwards – move forward! It's really not a secret at all. When it comes time to let go of the work you've been doing for most of your life, sell your business, or leave the workplace, simply shift your mentality from retirement to next evolution of the journey. Make that journey one of true discovery – of self, service, laughter, and purpose.


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